5 Ways I’ve Used Minimalism to Improve my Writing

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My Instagram posts

Instagram: Poetry Unfiltered

Every Saturday and Sunday, I publish a “Post-It-sized” poem on Instagram. I used to feel that I had to make each poem “pop” with the use of filters until I realized that such was unnecessary. I could feel the seconds being wasted, trying to come up with just the right filter, so I started screenshotting my poem with my phone via Google Docs and publishing it as is with the hashtag #nofilter. I realized there is a certain beauty in stark white and bold black. Coming up with appropriate hashtags take enough of my time.

Images are (Almost) Everything

Because I blog a minimum of twice weekly, it helps to recycle images, especially with my recurring features: Micropoetry Mondays and Fiction Fridays. For Monday, if my theme is “The Lighter Side” or “Opposites,” I use the same graphic; eventually, I will design my own logo for Micropoetry Monday, so I can ditch the stock photography all together (I’ve already scrubbed my blog of most of it). Because Fiction Fridays are all excerpts from my book or poetry based on it, I use the same graphic. Even when it comes to LinkedIn, rather than using a stock photo, I use my business card in basic black and plain white (without my personal address or telephone number) and an eye-grabbing headline. However, since I’ve discovered the Medium Daily Digest’s publishing platform (https://medium.com/), which is lot more attractive than LinkedIn’s (and not about boring corporate culture), I use an abstract photo—usually a close-up of something loosely related to the quotation I paste over it.  (And my quotes are always original.  There is enough recycled content out there.)

Strunk and White + Stephen King = Needful words

Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style is one grammar book that changed my writing (and maybe my life). It is what I call a hornbook for all writers. I applied its principles to my writing when I worked for my community college newspaper for several semesters, which helped me with conciseness (though I would still try to sneak in the Oxford comma). In On Writing by Stephen King, King says to “Kill your darlings”; I say you have to kill your characters (meaning the alphabet kind). Writing also helped me chuck 99% of my adverbs; nothing beats “he said” or “she said.” You want those dialogue tags to be invisible. I credit these two books and my experience as a student reporter in helping me get the job as a clarity editor for Grammarly.

Social media < Writing, Editing, Submitting

When I started my blog in October 2013, I thought I had to be as omnipresent as possible when it came to social media, but, after an incredible amount of spam I received on Twitter and people following just to get a follow, I ditched it and Pinterest, too. Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads, and LinkedIn is enough for me. (Often, what I post in one place gets posted in another). What time I used to spend trying to brand myself on all those social media accounts I could be spending building my vocabulary, submitting to actual publications, etc. I don’t have time to engage with all my followers — I need readers who aren’t writers. After more than three years of posting my Wednesday and Poem-a-Day prompts (in April and November) for Writer’s Digest on their blog and mine, I realized it was time for me to move on, which simplified my writing life even more. I needed content I could write ahead of time, so I could schedule it to publish on my blog at a later date. 

Submissions: Kitchen-Sink Theory Does Not Apply

I used to think I had to flood the market with submissions rather than focus on a handful of publishers. Targeting your publications gives you time to read and study them; submission guidelines alone will not provide intuition into what the editors are looking for. I have since discovered that my work would not be considered literary, so most small presses would not be a good fit; I have a better shot at larger publishers because of their more mainstream content. If I pick up a journal and don’t “get” any of the poems, then it’s the wrong publication for me; if I pick up a magazine and don’t enjoy any of the stories, then it’s not a good fit for my writing. This keeps me from being overwhelmed with reading material.

How to schedule posts ahead of time on your Facebook author/business page

This semester, I chose Professional and Technical Writing as one of my electives.

One of our assignments was to create a set of instructions.  Immediately, I thought of something I already knew how to do, which was how to schedule Facebook page posts ahead of time.  I spend about a day or two before a new semester starts, scheduling posts three days a week for the next four months.  (It helps to have plenty of content.)  I also have my Instagram set up to automatically post to my Facebook page.   

This instruction set got a 100% and some fab feedback, so I felt confident enough to share it.  🙂  Let me know how it works out for you in the comment box below.

Front page

Click here for the full instructions:  Resdesigned Facebook instructions

Writers Matter

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This fall, I will be working towards my B.A. in Creative Writing at the University of West Florida.  I basically took an extended spring break and summer vacation.  I’d been in school four years, earning an A.A. and an A.S.

For months, I’ve proven to myself that I can make a daily deadline when it comes to my writing, but now the time has come for me to focus a greater portion of my time on honing my craft rather posting on my blog, Facebook page, and Instagram.  I’ll still post thrice weekly on SarahLeaStories (it’s nice to have two years of posts “in the can”); when it comes to the rest, that’s what a few minutes on the weekend are for.   

I will always be a writer, editor, and content creator.  I even enjoyed being a writing tutor (I’m too shy to be a teacher) for those who wanted to learn and wanted to get better; I enjoy helping people that way because I am good at it.  I will never be a fundraiser, but someday, I hope to be in the position to either give back or pay it forward.  My last job inspired that in me, for I had no idea how much private money went to help students, even though I had been the recipient of some scholarships.

While at the Foundation, I also got the opportunity to do a write-up for the local newspaper about alumni who have “made good,” and by that, I mean that they “did good.”  (They were also genuinely friendly.)  
 https://www.pnj.com/story/news/2019/05/23/pensacola-state-college-honors-distinguished-alumni-awards-gala/3747764002/

I am proud of my work, of all the writing I do, and no one will ever take that from me or make me feel ashamed because it is “all I want to do.”  I am pursuing my passion, with passion, and every day that I show up and do my job to the very best of my ability, it isn’t just because I have pride in any work I do or because I have bills to pay, but it’s so that I can live another day to write what I want and share it with anyone who is interested enough to read it.  Maybe my writing won’t build buildings, but it has helped me build relationships.  And when my writing makes someone smile or laugh or be inspired in some small way, I feel that is one of my contributions to the world.  

Summer Writing Mini-Workshop: Writing Truths

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Many inventions and businesses have changed the world, but the awesome thing about being a writer is that you don’t have to be an engineer for your character to invent a life-changing device or service—just like you don’t have to be an entrepreneur for your character to open his/her own business. You make the magic happen with the tapping of keys—no mathematics or business acumen required.

A setting can be as much of a character as a person. Just as people often bounce off each other or react to one another, the way a character engages with their surroundings can reveal a great deal about them (as two people can be in the same setting, and have a completely distinct perspective of it; I’ve written about my current town through the prisms of positivity and negativity, to help set the mood, or tone). Think about it: What would Gone with the Wind be without the Deep South, The Wizard of Oz without Oz?
https://sarahleastories.com/2014/02/19/daily-prompt-west-end-girls-2/

Writing for children isn’t any easier than writing for adults. It just requires a smaller word count.

Fairy tales are great because they have a beginning, middle, and end. Nothing is worse than reading a book that starts in the wrong place (e.g. too many flashbacks) or simply ends. Satisfy your readers; tell the whole tale, for stories, like life, aren’t just in the big picture but in the details. https://sarahleastories.com/2014/05/20/not-the-story-but-how-you-tell-it/

Postmodernism is a style of writing that can challenge us to challenge an “absolute truth,” be it moral, spiritual, cultural, historical, medical, et cetera.

There is nothing like good that draws people together. You don’t have to be a food critic to write about food, but writing about it does help hone one’s descriptive writing skills in the areas of taste, touch, and smell. https://sarahleastories.com/2016/04/16/poem-a-day-2016-writers-digest-challenge-16-theme-about-or-at-a-food-establishment/

Memories are made in cars, as well as homes.  They are made in parks, in museums, and on the beach.

Readers care about plots, but they care about characters more.  https://sarahleastories.com/2018/01/25/writers-digest-wednesday-poetry-prompt-424-sick/

A “book within a book” should never be more interesting than the story in which the “book within a book” appears.

Writing is like a mathematical equation, except the answer doesn’t have to be exact (not everyone will get the same answer). You add and subtract scenes and characters, multiply the stakes, and can even divide the points-of-view, if you wish.

Summer Writing Mini-Workshop: Writing Truths

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We are unique and wonderfully self-made. https://sarahleastories.com/2015/07/23/networking-for-introverts/

For a writer, few things are what they are.  They are something more. https://sarahleastories.com/2015/12/04/writers-digest-wednesday-poetry-prompt-330-theme-shopping/

Part of the meaning of life is to find meaning in the meaningless. https://sarahleastories.com/2015/02/14/our-time/

Life isn’t a film, but a series of vignettes. Just as the earth goes through phases, so do we. https://sarahleastories.com/2015/09/09/writers-digest-wednesday-poetry-prompt-322-theme-10-lines-or-fewer/

Even as the Bible is the Word in the Flesh, poetry is the flesh, in words. Poetry is life distilled. https://sarahleastories.com/2017/02/02/writers-digest-wednesday-poetry-prompt-382-theme-refresh/

There is beauty and symmetry in numbers. There would be no world without them: https://sarahleastories.com/2017/03/09/writers-digest-wednesday-poetry-prompt-386-theme-a-one-poem/

Great lines don’t have to be attached to stories, or even poems. They can stand alone. https://sarahleastories.com/2016/02/23/thoughts-on-writing-on-books/

One thing can be many things.  https://sarahleastories.com/2014/07/25/the-gifting-tree-a-poem/

Just as no one ever reads the same book, we can all know the same person, but in a different way. https://sarahleastories.com/2016/04/29/poem-a-day-2016-writers-digest-challenge-29-theme-haphazard/

Love stories don’t have to involve romance. https://sarahleastories.com/2015/11/15/poem-a-day-writers-digest-challenge-11-theme-animal/

 

Summer Writing Mini-Workshop: Writing Tips

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Write for yourself; edit for others. Write sleepy; edit rested.

Save everything. If a stanza doesn’t fit in one poem, don’t force it in. Not every piece has to be part of the same puzzle, and you already have a “springboard” for another piece.

Not all lessons are learned from life itself but rather, its imitations. https://sarahleastories.com/2016/12/29/15-life-lessons-learned-from-classic-movies/

A resume tells potential employers what you can do; a portfolio shows them. 

You will not get paid for everything you write, but everything you write that gets published (other than on your personal blog) can help build up your portfolio. https://sarahleastories.com/2018/01/15/on-journalism-my-college-writing-experience/

Writing is a way of taking the outside in and then putting it back out in a way that resonates with readers.

If you love it, chances are someone else will, too. https://sarahleastories.com/2015/04/06/poem-a-day-writers-digest-challenge-5-theme-vegetables/

Writing is telling your story; reporting is telling their story.

We teach what we know, and share what we know with the world. https://sarahleastories.com/2018/05/28/why-i-tell-my-daughter-shes-beautiful/

Good old-fashioned storytelling with compelling characters will endure far longer than a story that is told with only a “twist ending” in mind. It’s not just about dessert but every course leasing up to it.

Summer Writing Mini-Workshop: On Blogging

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I started writing micropoetry when I opened a Twitter account.  A friend of mine at the time had made contact with a local philanthropist through Twitter, and so I thought it a great way to promote my writing.  However, I lost interest in what I think of as an online bathroom wall, though I saved all the micropoetry I’d written on Twitter (which is akin to a black hole) and repurposed it for my blog.  This led to #Micropoetry Mondays, just as the #novelines from my book led to #Fiction Fridays.

Scheduling posts ahead of time helps save time while keeping your blog current (so it practically runs itself). Because I knew I’d be busy this spring semester (two math classes will do that), I scheduled all my Monday and Friday posts for the year, so I would only have to create new content on Wednesdays.

Coming up with categories for your blog will help generate ideas for posts. Mine include: Homemaking/Marriage/Motherhood, Mormon Culture, Writing Prompts, et cetera. One of my personal favorites was Micropoetry Mondays, with each set of micropoems having a “theme” (such as The Lighter Side, Thanatology, and Family Dynamics). https://sarahleastories.com/2017/08/08/micropoetry-monday-mystery/

It’s better to use a high-quality (but relevant) stock photo for your blog than a low-quality image you took yourself.  That said, it is highly encouraged that you, as a blogger, learn how to take good photos.

If you’re going to “blog your book,” start a separate blog specifically for that book, using the title of the book as the website name. For example, if the name of your book is I Am Sam, your blog’s URL should be iamsam.com. Posts should be between 250 and 500 words (according to Nina Amir, who wrote about this in How to Blog Your Book), and if you can split a 500-word post into two, 250-word posts, do so.

Sharing useful information generates more traffic, for you aren’t just strengthening your brand but sharing with others the tools they need to build theirs. https://sarahleastories.com/2017/10/29/journalism-conference-notes-my-conclusion/

How-to articles are as popular as self-help books. People use the Internet for research as much as they do for entertainment. https://sarahleastories.com/2015/10/15/creative-writing-prompt-make-something-interesting/

When you’re writing a book review, you’re not just creating content for your blog, but you’re also gaining a deeper understanding of what you read as well as what you liked and didn’t liked about what you just read. https://sarahleastories.com/2018/03/31/book-review-fathers-arcane-daughter/

Providing examples of pitches or query letters can help your reader; if they find your information helpful, they’ll be coming back for more and maybe even sharing your ideas. https://sarahleastories.com/2015/07/22/100-word-pitch-to-harlequins-so-you-think-you-can-write-contest/

Writing is how the words sound; graphic design is how they look. Blogging bridges both worlds.